San Antonio Spurs Must Cope With Kawhi Leonard Out

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Kawhi Leonard
CHARLOTTE, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 23: Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio Spurs passing the Charlotte Hornets' defense during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, USA on November 23, 2016. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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The San Antonio Spurs have been a top-notch organization for the last two decades. Since the 1999-00 season, the Spurs have reached 50 wins or more every year. Also, they have made the playoffs every season since 1997-98, winning five championships in the process. But this year’s team seems to be an odd one. The Spurs have been without All-Star Kawhi Leonard for most of the season. Leonard missed the first 27 games due to a right quadriceps injury. He returned on Dec. 12 but struggled with more injuries. In a Jan. 5 game against the Phoenix Suns, Leonard injured his left shoulder. Days later, he was ruled out indefinitely. In an interview, their head coach, Gregg Popovich, said that he thought Leonard would sit out the rest of the season. However, new reports have emerged stating that Leonard could return in March.

Spurs Must Cope With Kawhi Leonard Out

As of right now, the Spurs’ record is 36-26, which places them fourth in the Western Conference. That record is not bad, but it is steps below expectations. Usually, the Spurs separate themselves from the pack. However, they are now only 2.5 games ahead of the Denver Nuggets, who, as of now, are ninth in the West – out of the playoff picture. That is quite a small gap and could easily be closed. Can the Spurs keep their 50-win season streak alive? Might they even miss the playoffs for the first time in two decades?

50-Win Season in Jeopardy

San Antonio has played 62 games out of 82. In order to reach 50 wins, the Spurs would need to win 14 of their final 20 games. Their next 10 include the surging New Orleans Pelicans, the dominant Golden State Warriors (twice), the league-leading Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Minnesota Timberwolves. All five of those teams have beaten the Spurs earlier in the season. The Spurs have lost seven of their last nine games. With all of that going on, plus the status of Leonard still being largely unknown, the Spurs’ 50-win season streak could finally be broken.

Playoff Race

San Antonio sits in fourth place in the West. Even without Leonard, the Spurs have managed to be 10 games above .500. Despite their 50-win total being in jeopardy, the Spurs still have a great shot at making the playoffs. Though their offense has suffered without Leonard, their defense is still good. They allow 98.8 points per game, which is the best in the NBA. They also hold their opponents to about 45 percent from the field, which is sixth in the league. Opposing teams also struggle to make three-pointers against the Spurs.

San Antonio is still equipped with All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and veterans such as Patty Mills, Pau Gasol, and Danny Green, who all played in coach Popovich’s system for years. The Spurs may not make it far in the playoffs, but they will be there. If Leonard does come back in March and returns to form, the Spurs could once again give the Western Conference’s elite teams a run for their money.

 

Main Photo:

CHARLOTTE, UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 23: Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio Spurs passing the Charlotte Hornets’ defense during the NBA match between San Antonio Spurs vs Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum arena in Charlotte, NC, USA on November 23, 2016. (Photo by Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

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